Bushtracks office may be 9,327 miles away from Bisate Lodge in Rwanda, but we feel a strong sense of connection to Bisate Lodge -- opening in summer 2017 -- which offers guests a chance to make a meaningful change and encounter mountain gorillas.
Our growing attachment is in part thanks to the four Hagenia trees our partners there have planted in our name in recognition of Bushtracks' support of and commitment to African conservation and community through sustainable ecotourism. Bushtracks' four trees join a future forest of 15,000 trees planted along the upper slopes of the half cone of Bisate, which will eventually form a beautiful forest woodland. Given Rwanda’s intense agricultural model, the country has a limited number of indigenous trees outside its national parks, so the reforestation project is vital.
The Vision For Bisate Lodge
When it opens, Bisate will be more than just a lodge. Its vision of reforestation and rehabilitation means that each guest will contribute to biodiversity conservation and local community engagement on their Rwanda safari.
The lodge will be a world-class example of sustainable conservation tourism making a dramatic, positive and far-reaching impact on the unique fauna and flora of a precious, increasingly rare, habitat. It submitted not to one, but two Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).
"It is not enough to build a camp. We must ensure that our model of sustainable conservation is rooted in the lodge’s very existence. Given Rwanda’s intense agricultural model, the country has a limited number of indigenous trees outside of the national parks, so our reforestation project is vital." - Craig Glatthaar, Wilderness Safaris
Bisate's Reforestation Project
The area around Bisate is set to follow the volcanoes’ natural vegetation zones:
- A bamboo forest at the low lying areas, along with other pioneer species that grow quickly such as forest dombeya and neoboutonia.
- Further up, species that are longer lived, such as hagenia and hypericum amongst others, will form a beautiful forest woodland. These trees will take longer to grow to maturity, but will eventually vegetate the main lodge area and the slopes of the Bisate Hills.
- A eucalyptus woodlot has been planted (to ensure a sustainable firewood supply for those chilly evenings in the rooms), while some acres have been set aside for growing pyrethrum as a cash crop to help fund the conservation elements of the project.
Community & Guest Involvement
Bisate’s reforestation project employs five community members – agronomist Jean-Moise Habimana runs the project. Jean Moise is from the community, his educational background is limited and is mostly self-taught. His knowledge is based on an incredible passion for what he does and from experience. His love for his job fuels the replanting fire on the site!
Bisate will encourage lodge guests to spend time in the tree nursery and to plant a tree during their Rwanda safari, thus contributing directly to the restoration of the area. In fact, in the development process every visitor to the site – including the construction crew – has actually already planted his or her own tree! Bisate believes the project will inspire further reforestation efforts throughout Rwanda over time.
Bringing a Forest Back to Life
Reforestation allows recovery and recolonization by indigenous species that currently have very limited habitat, especially at the lower altitudes where agriculture has dominated for decades. Through the habitat restoration project it is estimated that as many as 12 bird species endemic to the Albertine Rift will move back into the area, among them: rwenzori turaco, mountain black boubou, strange weaver, rwenzori batis, and rwenzori double collared sunbird.
120 species of butterflies occur in Volcanoes National Park and the lodge anticipates a number of these will be returning to Bisate too. Southern tree hyrax, side-striped jackal and at least one species of genet have already recolonized the site. Golden monkey and buffalo have recently been recorded as ‘vagrants,’ i.e. animals that have been seen in the area but have not settled down as residents. Other species expected to become part of the Bisate ecosystem include: Carruthers’ mountain squirrel, Boehm’s squirrel, bushbuck, black-fronted duiker, serval, Gambian giant pouched rat, brush-tailed porcupine, and slender mongoose.
Become a Part of the Story
Located within an easy driving distance of Volcanoes National Park headquarters, Bisate Lodge is a stepping stone to the twelve habituated gorilla groups in the park, and treks depart daily from the lodge.
Bushtracks invites you to learn more about Bisate Lodge, and if you're planning a Rwanda safari, to stay at Bisate, plant your own tree, and become a part of this ecotourism story that benefits habitats, critically endangered mountain gorillas, and the surrounding community. It is even possible that in time mountain gorillas might make the site and surrounding replanted forest their home.